It is 1990, and my younger son, David, is seven. He is standing at my dresser, digging through his favorite drawer of my jewelry box. He has extracted several ropes of fake pearls and a Venetian glass necklace that my mother gave me when I was a little girl. Looping them around his neck, he is peering at himself in the mirror.
As I watch him, something goes off in my head. David often plays with jewlery. So did his older brother, Jeffery, when he was little. But certainly not past the age of, say, four. And never the way David is now doing, lovingly stroking the glass beads and holding them up to view.
There had always been something different about David, things that I’d been picking up for the past few years. Like the fact that he didn’t hang out with packs of baseball-playing boys as his older brother did, but preferred the company of little girls. “He’s so mature for his age,” my mother often remarked. Yes, he was. Adults adored David. So polite, so considerate, people told me. So different from other children. Different. When I potchked in my garden. David helped me. He’d dig the holes for the plantings, carefully water the seedlings. Or he went ice skating with me when our family was on vacation in the Adirondacks. Holding hands, we glided on the bumpy surface of the frozen lake. When I fell, David helped me up, and we hugged. We women insist that we want to find such kind, gentle traits in all men. Don’t stereotype, I told myself. But when David and I were skidding around on the ice together, my radar told me that he would not grow up to be like most men.
It was that moment when David was seven, trying on my beads in front of the mirror, that I suddenly, absolutely knew that David was gay. I didn’t share my epiphany with anyone. Part of me was still hoping I was wrong, that I had been misreading the many signals. As my son approached adolescence, I paid even more careful attention. He began to spend a lot of time in his room, alone, listening to music and reading books. Among his favorites were Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and The Little Princess. Hardly the choices of other boys his age.
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